Marijuana has not been decriminalized in Arizona, despite the fact that the state does have a Medical Marijuana program. Even possession of small amounts of marijuana outside the medical program remains a crime. The severity of marijuana offenses varies a lot, though. Possession of small amounts for personal use is a relatively minor crime. However, the severity escalates as the amounts of marijuana get larger, and as the activity becomes more commercial. If you are facing charges, contact a marijuana lawyer as soon as possible.
Complicating things even further, federal law doesn’t recognize the legality of the medical marijuana program, leaving participants in that program open to the threat of federal prosecution.
Offenses Under Arizona Law
Under section 13-3405 of the Arizona statutes, four activities involving marijuana are criminalized:
To be a crime, however, any of the acts has to be performed “knowingly.”
It is a separate crime to possess the “paraphernalia” associated with marijuana.
Penalties under Arizona Law
Simple possession (for personal use rather than sale) of up to two pounds of marijuana, and possession of paraphernalia, are the least severe crimes; actual sale, or delivery for sale, of more than two pounds is the most severe crime.
In addition to the amount of marijuana involved, the usual sentencing factors, including the defendant’s prior convictions, if any, will affect or adjust sentences.
Defending the Case
The defense of marijuana-related charges can focus on the specific elements of the crime charged, such as whether there was:
- Knowledge of the drug, which the law requires for all offenses
- Intent to sell, or an actual sale for charges based on that intent
- Actual transportation of the drug, or an offer to transport, for charges based on that activity
For example, you can’t be guilty of possession if you were never aware that the marijuana was there, or that the substance was, in fact, marijuana. It is surprisingly common for innocent people to be used by others who want to keep a distance from the drug. Examples include having friends or relatives hide the drug in your vehicle, or somewhere in your house and/or garage.
Another form of defense focuses on the amount of marijuana involved, which affects the crime’s classification and punishment. For example:
- Did they measure the weight of the marijuana accurately?
- Did the state weigh only the marijuana for which the defendant can be held accountable, or were other amounts added in?
An experienced marijuana lawyer will know that the defendant must recognize and investigate these defenses—there is little incentive for prosecutors to shoot holes in their own case.
A third type of defense involves the defendant’s legal rights under the constitution and the criminal procedure laws. Among the many defenses of this type are:
- The failure to timely and adequately inform you about your right to remain silent and to consult an attorney
- Use of evidence that law enforcement obtained illegally either because of search without probable cause, or a search conducted under the authority of an invalid search warrant
- The failure to arraign you in a timely manner
- The failure to bring you to trial in a timely manner
Fighting the Charges: The Right Legal Representation for Your Marijuana Case
Conviction of a marijuana-related crime is serious. It can affect your future employment and many other aspects of your life. To get the best result possible—whether that means getting the court to dismiss the case or give a lighter sentence—you need an experienced Arizona marijuana lawyer. The sooner you obtain one, the better your chances are of securing a favorable result.
Phoenix/Scottsdale area attorney Howard A. Snader is a marijuana lawyer with a state-wide practice. He has 25 years of criminal law experience and is a former Maricopa County prosecutor. He carries the highest AVVO rating and understands the finer points of Arizona criminal law. If you or someone you know is facing a marijuana-related criminal charge, start the process of defending yourself. Call Howard Snader today.